Russian President Vladimir Putin will "never be our partner," the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Thursday at the confirmation hearing of retired Gen. James Mattis to be defense secretary.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., listed Russian aggressions over the past eight years, including the annexation of Crimea, threats to NATO allies and military intervention Syria that left "a trail of death and destruction."
Because of these actions, McCain said the U.S. must be realistic about its relationship with Russia and realize that it will never be an ally, noting that last three presidents have all failed to build a partnership with the former Soviet Union.
"Putin wants to be our enemy. He needs us as his enemy. He will never be our partner, including in fighting ISIL. He believes that strengthening Russia means weakening America. We must proceed realistically on this basis," McCain said in his opening statement.
McCain's viewpoint differs from President-elect Trump's. Mattis called Russia a "strategic competitor" in responses to advance policy questions provided to the committee ahead of the hearing.
"I support the president-elect's desire to engage with Russia now," Mattis said. "When we identify other areas where we cannot cooperate, we must confront Russia's behavior and defend ourselves if Russia chooses to act contrary to our interests."